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Veil/No Veil That Is The Question

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  I have a question for you all: Veil or no veil. In Cannon Law there are requirements for dress and decorum. Women are not to have their heads uncovered.

I have no problem with any woman who feels that wearing the veil enhances her spirituality, brings her closer to God. But it is not a precept of the Church, and so therefore I feel no obligation to wear one.

It is an honor to wear the veil. But by publicly repudiating it, a woman dishonors her feminine dignity, the sign of female subjection, just as the military officer is dishonored when he is stripped of his decorations. The Roman Pontifical contains the imposing ceremonial of the consecration of the veils: “Receive the sacred veil, that thou mayst be known to have despised the world, and to be truly, humbly, and with all thy heart subject to Christ as his bride; and may he defend thee from all evil, and bring thee to life eternal” (Pontificale Romanum; de benedictione). St. Paul says an unveiled woman is a dishonor: “But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces her head, for it is the same as if she were shaven” (1 Cor. 11, 5) Why Women Must Wear Veils

Really! Its an honor to wear a veil? And by publicly repudiating it I am dishonoring my feminine dignity? It's an honor to do something that subjugates me because of my sex? Canon Law also states that men and women should not be seated together during Mass, again why? Is the Church trying to say something about the nature of women? Are we so vile a creature that the sight of our uncovered head will do what? Cause Men to be inflamed with sexual desire? Or lose focus on what is going on in the Mass? Doesn't that say more about men than women?

And I am dishonoring my feminine dignity that was so hard won by the Mary The Blessed Virgin Herself? Wasn't BVM chosen to bear the Christ Child and therefore redeeming women from the role of either virgin or whore to woman worthy of salvation? Were not the first at the Tomb women? Didn't they come back to a room full of men who did not believe them? These are traditions that are observed in breech, meaning many more Dioceses and Parishes do not observe them:

First, Canon 27 says: "Custom is the best interpreter of laws." That is, if the custom of women wearing veils can be shown to be based in Tradition, and has been practiced and never rescinded in that Tradition, it is a custom that then must be used to interpret any code of canon law. Canon law is not an end in itself

I do not want those traditions to become the Tenets of my faith, the Precepts of the Catholic Church I love.

The Tenets for being a good Catholic are:

Do you receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a year. Yuppers I do that, do it more often; every six weeks. Why? Am I trying to be a show off. No, I understand that there is an emotional-psychological-spiritual benefit to the Sacrament.

Do I receive Holy Eucharist AT least on Easter, Christmas? ✔ And as often as I can weekdays and most certainly every Sunday.

Have I received the Sacraments of Intiation: Baptism, Confirmation, First Eucharist? ✔

Am I attending Mass on Sunday, Holy Days and resting from unnecessary work? ✔

Do I observe prescribed days of fast and abstinence? ✔

Do I give of my time, gifts and talent to my parish and community? ✔

These are the Precepts of the Church; and the veil is not part of them.

If the veil were a precept of the church and not a tradition I don't think I could wear it. For the moment I do that I am stepping back in time, to a time when women were the weaker vessel, with little sense of what goes on in the world. When women were seen as not being wise enough to fully participate in Mass, in the FULL spiritual lives of the Church. I would be stepping back to a time when I could not fully be a member of the Church I love.

For women there was only being a religious, or a mother and if you were called as a mother well, you were at the bottom of the spiritual heap. At least as a sister, nun, you have freedom to be spiritual, as a mom not so much. During the time of the veil there were no LAY women serving on the altar. No lay women in positions of power, if you were a nun you could teach and perhaps become principal. There were no lay women on the parish staff. No lay woman on staff at the Curia. No the Veil truly was the covering to the Holy Of Holies: It kept women out.

I am a Minister of the Holy Eucharist, a Lector, a Religious Education Teacher, a Spiritual Director. I have been called by my Baptism to be Priest, Prophet and Queen. I have been called to participate with Christ on His mission. I have been called to serve as Mother, Wife and WOMAN my God, My Saviour! And I will not ever give that up.


  1. I understand your position because I used to hold it. I think we need to remember the culture of the time in which St. Paul wrote, with respect to the idea of 'feminine dignity.' Jewish women covered their heads, as the married orthodox Jews do today.

    I've been discerning wearing a veil because it's a sign of active respect for the Holy Eucharist. I've heard many women say that the first Mass where they wore their mantilla was the most peaceful and transcending Mass they'd experienced until that time. They said that the veil helped them concentrate on Christ, rather than get easily distracted.

    So it's good to get your perspective on it during this time of my discernment! This is where it's wonderful to live in the time we do: we get to discern what God is calling us to do without the fear of harm if we disobey it (think burkas in Afghanistan).

  2. Amen Elizabeth!

    What you say is so very true. I too see great beauty in the mantilla, mine was a lovely light pink number. I hope your discernment goes well, and I will honored to pray next to you if we ever met for Mass. I am DC born and raised: What Parish in Richmond do you belong to?

  3. Patty, Many thanks for your reflections here on veil/no veil. As Catholic nuns, we've been asked this question many times in terms of the religious habit. I appreciate your perspective on the topic in terms of any woman wearing a veil in church. A Tweeter sent us a link to your reflection and asked us to comment so we're going to talk about your post and the issue on our Ask Sister podcast tonight -- it's a live broadcast at at 6 p.m. CST. Would love it if you could stop by and hang in the chat room there during the podcast. :)

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